1. FatCatInaSuit
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    FatCatInaSuit New Member

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    Finding it hard to write certain characters.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by FatCatInaSuit, Jan 7, 2013.

    My stories are not fantasy they are based on real-life areas such as drug abuse and the like. I've done numerous days worth of researching I have even asked some of the people themselves about certain types of life styles. However I just can not seem to push it out it just feels wrong on some cases.

    For instance, I have a soldier character who has had it rough over seas and but every time I try to push out a war like situation I feel like I'm dishonouring the whole drama of the situation I just can't get it as intense as I feel it should be it's just dead and lifeless.

    For another example, I have a drug-abusing male as one of my main uppermost characters. I (thankfully) have no experience in that area and I feel like I'm making things appear more evil and dirty than they in all actuality are. Because to a person of that lifestyle writing in that point of view wouldn't it be classified as good, and heavenly instead of how other people see it?

    I would just like some tips on this issue, comments are much appreciated.
     
  2. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    You have to write it drunk
     
  3. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    I personally have not battled that demon, but I do know people that have and most of the people who were/or are true abusers, it is a very dark and horrible place.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, Cat - I think it's very difficult to write about something in which you have no experience. That's kind of where the saying "write what you know," came from. I believe in that general philosophy, although there are plenty of folks who vehemently disagree. I think when you're not familiar with a milieu or situation it takes A LOT of research to get familiar enough with it to be able to write about it believably.

    I had an idea for a book that I'd really like to write or to read, about a woman who illegally immigrates from Latin America to the United States. Unfortunately, I don't think I can do it. My life experience is just too different from that experience for me to really write about it well. I think that someone who wrote a story about that type of experience would need to meet a lot of people who had lived it. They would have to travel to Latin America to know the towns where the people lived before leaving. They would have to know people who lived in the US who had come here illegally. They would have to be very familiar with the ways of avoiding being caught, and what happens when someone is. Because I just don't realistically have the resources to fully research this situation, (at least as far as I feel I would need to research it in order to write it well) writing that book is not for me. I don't even speak Spanish, which is something I think the author of a book like that should do.

    So maybe that particular character and situation isn't a good one for you to write about. If you do dedicate yourself to research, I'd try to read everything you can get your hands on about the drug culture. Maybe see if you could talk to some abuse counselors who could suggest things you could read or talk to you. You almost have to think of yourself as an investigative reporter.

    If that's not for you, what is it about the drug abusing male character that makes you want to write about him? Could you get at that characteristic in another way? Maybe you could write about a character who's apathetic, or occasionally drinks too much, or something? Is there some aspect of yourself you could write about? Maybe you could first try writing a story about someone who is more like you or like people in your social/peer group -- not necessarily someone based on one particular person, but someone who'd fit right in. That's easier to do. Once you have some practice, maybe then you could stretch more into the unfamiliar (albeit with some research).

    For your soldier character, there is a huge slew of war books out these days -- was your soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan? Or are you talking about an older war -- Vietnam?, WWII? Or something else -- one of the wars in Africa? Serbian war? If you're talking about a contemporary war, with a U.S. solider who fought in Afghanistan or Iraq, read Sebastian Junger's War. I also recently read a book called Until Tuesday, about a soldier with PTSD. I didn't think it was the greatest book ever written, but I think it's a good piece (and I'd then suggest others) for one perspective that's important to have if you're writing about this. Also, there are two fiction books that come to mind about the war -- The Yellow Birds and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. If you want to write about a contemporary US Soldier, I suggest you read every book you can get your hands on that deals with our current/most recent wars.

    Good Luck!
     
  5. mbear
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    mbear Member

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    As far as the war issue, I would throw something down on paper and then try to find someone who has witnessed war and ask them to offers some pointers. Unless you are really gearing yourself towards military readers, I don't think your readers will mind as long as you are adding to your story and you have a good plot. Plus each experience with war is different and handled differently by each person (from my experience). My husband is a lawyer and the shows on TV do a HORRIBLE job of portraying it, but my husband usually forgives it and still enjoys the shows or movies as long as they have a good story tied to them. Also my Father-in-law is a major in the army he watches war stuff all the time, half realistic and half not so much but as long as there is a good story attached he usually doesn't get to bothered by the inconsistencies.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a lawyer and this always bothers me tremendously. I can't watch a lot of legal-related shows, because I get too disgusted or distracted by the unrealistic happenings. I don't read a lot of legal -based books, although many legal thrillers are written by lawyers, and even though there has to be some unrealistic elements (usually dealing with time compression, etc) in order to make the story go forward, they are at least based in reality. For legal-related entertainment, I almost always stick with non-fiction stories. Documentaries and true-crime are often far more fascinating than completely fictional legal dramas.

    But I require a high level of believability in fiction. Most people are more generous than I am in this respect.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Your own agenda for the scene could be holding you back. If your willing to go outside your
    zone you have to ditch preconcieved notions about these scenes and tackle them as you
    would any other scene - what is the goal for each character in this scene? Don't make drugs
    the issue or the big battle the issue. Make the characters goals the issue and everything
    else essential background and action.
    Think of it this way a battle scenes mood would be what fear? or adrenalin to get the
    job done?
    What's the mood for the drug character's scene embarrassment that the character has
    to steal to get her drugs or the anticipation of a night of feeding her addiction no matter
    the cost.
     
  8. FatCatInaSuit
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    FatCatInaSuit New Member

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    Thank you for all the comments. For the drug abuser it's not necessarily a problemhe's ready to tackle just writing about it as if it were my day to day life is my goal I will take in the suggestions about and books and things.

    For the soldier it's not really a war that has happened yet, going against Russia and by now the eastern countries such as Afghanistan are on our side. I will look into books about the wars that have happened so far to get a good idea.
     
  9. Anielle
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    Anielle Member

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    as a recovering alcoholic with friends fighting drug addictions as well it is a horrible place, its not heavenly its just another hell to help us escape the hell we feel in our day to day lives without any substances. I started drinking because my depression disorders were untreated and I wasn't talking about them, and I was being abused and raped daily so I drank to forget about the present. I didn't drink to feel good, pounding headaches, waking up not remembering the last few days to a week at a time, puking all over my friends' sofas, bathrooms, beds, myself...I felt disgusting and it only caused me to drink more.

    To help you write from that perspective if you need help getting into the character, think of a time that you were so angry with yourself that you didn't know what to do, did you yell at yourself? Did you cry and have a "pitty party" as some would call it? Did you open the fridge and start eating until you felt better? Did you exercise until you wore yourself out? Examine how you felt before and how you felt after you did something to cope with your feelings. If anger wasn't a trigger how about a break up, have you been cheated on? Find some point in your life where you just didn't feel all that great about yourself. Explore those feelings, exaggerate some of it...Depression makes addicts feel the world is coming down on them so what would be a upsetting and stressful day at work for a healthy person to us may feel like we have horrible failed as a person and we can't be any better, or if a dispute with a co-worker/family member/friend/romantic partner occurred to us it would be like the end of the world or that whoever we fought with even a simple dispute over who should do the dishes can feel like we are being attacked emotionally.

    As for war time the only advice I have there is to talk to some war vets and see that it was like for them, although from personal experience they don't really like to talk about it. My dad served but he hasn't said a word to this day about the wars he served in overseas.
     

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